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New cooks on menu: 52-year run ends, Railways to exit Parliament canteens, kitchens

Northern Railway has received a communication from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, asking it to vacate the premises and hand over all equipment, such as computers, printers, furniture and the like, and recall all its staff by November 15.

Written by Avishek G Dastidar | New Delhi | Updated: October 23, 2020 9:27:36 am
New cooks on menu: 52-year run ends, Railways to exit Parliament canteens, kitchensMore than 100 Northern Railway staff are posted in Parliament. (Express photo by Renuka Puri/file)

After 52 years of feeding India’s lawmakers, the Indian Railways is set to exit the canteens and kitchens of Parliament complex by next month to make way for a new agency to feed Parliamentarians.

Northern Railway, which provides the catering arrangement in all food-serving facilities in Parliament House Estate—the canteens, annexe, library building, various pantries — has received a communication from the Lok Sabha Secretariat, asking it to vacate the premises and hand over all equipment, such as computers, printers, furniture and the like, and recall all its staff by November 15.

Officials in Parliament and Railways confirmed the development and said that as per the latest proposal, Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), which runs the Ashoka Hotel, is set to take over the catering job. Food served in Parliament has been highly subsidised to keep the tariff low for the MPs, House staff, and visitors.

Usually a committee of MPs oversees the catering arrangements in Parliament. However, the committee for the current Lok Sabha has not yet been constituted. Officials said the decision has been finalised at the level of the Secretariat administration.
More than 100 Northern Railway staff – cooks, servers, kitchen staff and others – are posted in Parliament. During House sessions, around 75 additional personnel from Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) are deployed as reinforcement. The Railways had a sanctioned strength of 417 catering staff for deployment in Parliament.

Usually the committee of MPs, along with the Parliament administration, decides the rates and items of food served in Parliament canteens of various categories. However, Northern Railway is paid whatever cost it incurs from the Ministry of Finance through Parliament. Officials said the annual revenue from Parliament catering is to the tune of Rs 15 to Rs 18 crore.

Officials maintained that the move to get an alternative to Railways for catering for MPs had been contemplated even during the UPA tenure, when Meira Kumar was the Speaker. “There have often been quality issues with the railway food,” a Parliament official said.

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